(Originally posted April 9, 2013)
As I wrote in an earlier post, I went to visit my aunt, my dad’s sister, recently. I hadn’t seen her for almost 15 years, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I realize now of course that I needn’t have worried because it was like there had never been any hostility or separation between us. I hugged her as soon as I got out of the car, and she hugged me right back.
My mom came along, as well as my two kids. My mom and aunt had talked on the phone once already, so they just gabbed along in Cantonese as though there hadn’t been any lapse in their friendship all these years.
I thought my aunt would be alone, but her husband and her grandson were already there. Her husband accidentally called me my mother’s Chinese name when he first saw me because I look so much like her, then laughed when he realized his mistake.
I had thought their grandson, my cousin’s son, would be in school, but he was apparently on Spring Break, as my kids were. He was the best surprise of the whole experience. He’s 14 now and an only child, and I think he immediately fell in love with my kids, especially my daughter. He went out of his way to try to take care of them. He offered them something to drink, asked my son if he wanted to watch cartoons, and tried to make my daughter laugh as often as possible. When we went for a walk, he raced my son and made sure my son got safely across the street. He kept asking how long we were going to stay and seemed very sad when we were leaving.
I’m so grateful to be able to reconnect with this part of my dad’s family. One day I’ll be able to just write “my family”, but I feel a little like I still have to earn it a bit. It’s unfortunate that we live almost two hours apart so it’s unlikely we’ll see each other often. Thankfully, it seems that most of my dad’s family is on Facebook. I added my aunt and was able to see a bunch of my other relatives, including two cousins who live only half an hour away that I forgot I had.
It turns out one of those cousins went to the same college I did. I sent her an Add Friend request and wrote her a message explaining who I was. She wrote back immediately, and we ended up chatting online for a little while. She seemed genuinely interested in meeting me and my kids. I confessed that I worried that her dad, my dad’s only remaining brother, might still be mad at me for not keeping in touch with my dad, and she wrote, “No no, everyone understands.” That made my eyes tear up because I wouldn’t blame any of them for blaming me at least a little for my dad’s suicide. He felt he had no one in his life and no reason to live. If I could have known that he wasn’t angry at me anymore and wouldn’t make unreasonable demands on me, I would have liked to be able to write him letters and send him photos of the kids. I hope that whatever energy was the essence of him can still feel that I love him and that I’m doing my best to make some good come from his death.
So, I have plans to meet my other aunt, uncle, and their two daughters in a little less than two weeks. I hope my mom can come again. Even though my parents divorced when I was very young, I think she would like to be friends with my dad’s family. All of her relatives are still in Hong Kong. She made a comment about how Thanksgiving could be really nice this year, with so many more relatives. The thought honestly hadn’t occurred to me, but now that it does, I’m really eager for more time with my (dad’s) family. It’s like that line in “When Harry Met Sally”: “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible!”